HC Deb 21 November 1950 vol 481 cc181-3
28. Mr. McGovern

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he is aware of the number of violent crimes in Glasgow, razors, bicycle chains and broken bottles being used; that police officers have been charged with violence against civilians in the cells and streets; that a sergeant returned to duty after being fined; that in a murder trial a constable was proved to have used a stolen car on duty in conspiracy with other officers; that lack of supervision and discipline is evident; and if he will set up an inquiry into the administration and discipline of the force with a view to restoring public confidence while calling a special conference of magistrates, police chiefs, Members for Glasgow and heads of religious denominations to combat on a moral and spiritual basis this wave of violence.

Mr. McNeil

Having given most painstaking attention to this Question, I must affirm that I have no reason to doubt the efficiency of the City of Glasgow Police, nor have I criticism of substance to make on their supervision or their discipline. Nor have I any evidence that they have forfeited the confidence of the citizens of Glasgow. I therefore lack reason to institute any inquiry or to convene any conference of the kind suggested by my hon. Friend.

Moreover, although I greatly deplore crimes of violence anywhere and, like everyone else, am distressed at their prevalence, I must in fairness add that the number of crimes of violence occurring in Glasgow for the first nine months of this year including those of the kind to which my hon. Friend draws particular attention shows a marked decrease compared to the same period of last year and the year before that.

Mr. McGovern

Whilst understanding the difficulty of the right hon. Gentleman and the probable inconvenience of having an inquiry into police administration, with which I fundamentally disagree, is there any reason why he should not have a conference of the kind suggested in order to try to root out violence in the city which, whether the right hon. Gentleman agrees or not, has reached alarming proportions in a very drastic kind of crime? I myself would take the opportunity to supply the right hon. Gentleman with further evidence of police brutality and hope he will change his mind.

Mr. McNeil

I have every sympathy with the distress and anxiety which my hon. Friend is displaying, but I would not think I was furthering the control of crime in Glasgow if I seemed to censure the Glasgow police when no such censure is justified. If my hon. Friend has any further information of a precise and corroborative kind I will myself undertake to examine it.

Mr. Carmichael

While I am at one with my hon. Friend in his desire completely to wipe out violence in Glasgow, may I ask my right hon. Friend if, with his own knowledge and the knowledge of the facts at the Scottish Office, he is not bound to admit that the people of Glasgow compare favourably with the people in any other part of the country?

Mr. McNeil

Yes, Sir. I not only share with my hon. Friend great affection for these people, but also a great respect for them; and I have taken care to point out that these figures show there has been a diminution in violence offences this year.

Mr. Nally

On a point of order. There is rather an important point in this Question upon which I would like your guidance, Mr. Speaker, as to the propriety or otherwise of it. The Question states: … in a murder trial a constable was proved to have used a stolen car on duty in conspiracy with other officers; We do not know at this stage whether, in fact, there is an appeal pending against the death penalty; and although it has been said that an inquiry is proceeding in the City of Glasgow as to the conduct of one of the police officers in connection with the man found guilty of this crime, the point I wish to raise is whether at this stage of both the trial and the inquiry now proceeding into the conduct of the guilty police officer it is in order to place a sentence on the Order Paper which assumes that there will be no appeal; and assumes that officers have been found guilty of conspiring in this matter?

Mr. Speaker

It is impossible for the Table to know all the facts of everything. The hon. Member who puts down a Question must, of course, be responsible for the facts. If eventually it turns out that there is an appeal, then, of course, it would be out of order, but we have no means of judging at the moment.

Mr. McGovern

May I reply by saying that I have satisfied myself that I was taking the proper line? Even according to the Crown officers the stealing of the car and the using of the car was admitted at the trial and there can only be an appeal against the murder sentence. It certainly was admitted that the car was stolen and used.

Mr. McNeil

I do not disagree at all with your Ruling, Mr. Speaker, but just in case there should be further publicity I would say that there is, of course, no evidence of conspiracy.

Mr. John Henderson

May I ask the Secretary of State if he is aware that his decision to have no inquiry will give the citizens of Glasgow great satisfaction, and will dispel from their minds some anxiety which has been created by the publicity which this question has received in the Scottish Press?

Mr. McGovern

On a point of order. May I give notice that in view of the unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I will try to raise this matter at the earliest opportunity? I would also ask the Secretary of State to remember the graft trial in which everybody assured us that everything was all right, but several magistrates were arrested shortly afterwards.